Q: I am a solid 5.11 climber, but I’ve done two 5.12s in the gym by working them over and over. What is the best climbing strategy to become a solid 5.12 climber? – Lisa (CT)
A: Hello Lisa, Sounds like you are doing great from just two years climbing! There are three approaches you need leverage to become solid at 5.12.
1. Spend about 50% of your climbing time sending routes in the 5.10 and 5.11 range, striving to develop superior movement skills…fluid, economic movement, a fast, yet relaxed pace, and learning to find and use rest positions to the max. This time investment is essential to build a solid foundation from which 5.12 will be achieved.
2. Spend about 30% of your time bouldering…this is where you will work maximal moves, learn new body positions and techniques, and develop a killer instinct.
3. Spend about 20% of your time (no more!) projecting 5.12 routes. This is where you will learn to link hard moves, move quickly through tenuous sequences, milk marginal rests, and push yourself to the point of falling (assuming it’s a safe fall). BTW, many climbers spend way too much time projecting hard routes…and this stunts their growth and does not produce optimal results.
So use the above strategies–and do some supplemental strength training and antagonist muscle training–and you’ll be well on your way to 5.12…and 5.13!
Q: I’m 44 now and I tend to get injured from training. Do you have tips for older climbers? Is it still possible to improve at my age? (France)
A: Hey, age 44 is really not that old; after all I’m age 43! I know many people in their 50s and 60s who climb very hard, and you likely can, too. The key is to focus on technique and mental skills, and to do only a modest amount of training. Avoid dynamic training and moves, since these are most likely to get you injured. Also, be sure to always warm-up gradually before training and climbing. Other than that, it’s tough to give you specific advice without knowing more about your current situation (strengths, weaknesses, experiences and such).
Q: Hey Eric, I am leaving for a 3 week sport-climbing roadtrip in approximately one week. We will be going to Red Rocks, Mt. Charleston, VRG, Maple Canyon, American Fork Canyon, Logan Canyon, Smith Rock, and ORG. We will be spending around 3 days at each area, which isn’t a lot, and I was wondering what would be the best approach to climbing as much as I can almost every day without overclimbing? – Calen (CA)
A: Hello Calen, Sounds like a great trip! Since you’ve only been climbing one year, it’s most important that you soak up “experience” on all those different rock types. This trip is a fantastic investment in your future climbing ability, and you should view every new climb at each new area as “making a deposit” into your bank of experience. Therefore, you do NOT want to waste a lot of time projecting a single hard route. Of course, if you see an inspiring route that you think you can send in a few tries, then go for it. But I would discourage you from getting on any routes that will take you more than one or two tries to redpoint.
If 5.11b is your maximum grade, then I suggest you spend most of your time climbing routes between 5.9 and 5.11b–these are the climbs that will make you a better climber. Also, remember that each new area will feel hard at first, so even 5.9 might feel tough on your first day at a new area. So, I suggest you spend the first day climbing relatively easy routes (feeling out the area). Spend day two climbing routes up to 11b, and then spend the third day doing a few more moderates (but avoiding a wicked muscular blowout that will take many days to recover from). Chances are your travel days will be your only rest days, so be careful not to overdo it and get tweaked or injured. Eat well, drink lots of water, and sleep a lot! And, of course, be safe and have fun!
Q: I’m having trouble clipping from tenuous positions on the first three bolts routes. I can quite happily place the draw but when it comes to clipping, I often spook out and can’t clip. (This could well be due to three ground falls in the past 12 months.) Do you have any suggestions to help me out? – Phil (Australia)
A: Hi Phil, Really it’s a confidence and “feel” thing, you just need to work through. You’ll need to learn when you can trust yourself to pull the rope and not fall in a dangerous situation…and when you should grab the draw and safe your neck. Most people grab the draws too frequently, when they really don’t need to. I don’t have any great advice, but trust that with continued practice and experience you should be about to suss out your precise limits in these situations. Be strong, be safe!
Q: I’m 15 and I want to get better at climbing. Any suggestions on how to get good sorta fast? I have a ton of boulders right by my house, is that a good place to start? – Roy (CA)
A: Hello Rory, YES, for a young (new) climber, getting out and gaining experience is the single most important thing. Ideally you want to climb/boulder 3 or 4 days per week…always giving yourself rest days so you don’t get injured. I suggest you try to do a 50-50 mix of bouldering and roped climbing to broaden your experiences. Just bouldering will make you stronger, but it develops a more narrow skill set and can lead to tendon injuries. So, get on a rope with an experienced climber whenever possible. Some supplemental training will be good if you can’t climb 3 or 4 days per week. Body weight exercises are best for now…pull-ups, push-ups, dips, crunches, etc. Check out my book, Training for Climbing, for lots of details on all the key subjects, and keep following the NICROS Training Center and my Podcasts for new ideas and inspiration. Let me know how it goes. Have fun!